Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Raw Vegan Chocolate Bars

I love food. If I'm not eating it, I'm thinking about it, writing about it, talking about it, or creating it. A couple weeks ago while thinking about it, I had the thought to make my own chocolate bars. As I've probably already mentioned, chocolate is part of my daily life. I don't mean that I eat a whole cake every day, but at least a square with a glass of wine, which I indulge in more than I care to admit. I'm on the hunt for a good organic red wine. Every one that I've tried so far tastes like sludge. I'm led to believe that wine needs added sulfites to be palatable. If anyone has any suggestions though, send them my way!

Anyways, while browsing pinterest one day, I found this recipe for chocolate bars. Already having the ingredients in my cabinet, I got to work.. and was pretty disappointed. It came out more like fudge, and was way too sweet. I prefer a dark chocolate (72% cocoa to be exact!) that's more bitter, so I made it my mission to perfect this recipe. I came up with 3 different recipes of various cocoa contents (the original recipe is about 50% cocoa). These don't have lecithin, which reduces the viscosity of chocolate, so they're a little on the soft side. They're best kept in the freezer, but they taste almost as good as a vegan Endangered Species bar!

Have fun with these. Make them your own! I've made them using dehydrated raspberries and strawberries, the latter of which is almost as good paired with chocolate as wine is! I've crushed up pretzels and made a chocolate pretzel bark, and I have homemade mint extract sitting in the cabinet, waiting to be ready to be added to one of these chocolate confections. My coworker made a delicious bar by adding ginger and curry powder. Anything goes!

Dehydrated Raspberries
Dehydrated Strawberries

Our garden strawberries, ready for picking!

The first bar has a mild cocoa content, so it's still pretty sweet. It's a little on the soft side, but it's good for people who don't like a dark, bitter chocolate.

Chocolate Bar #1
62% cocoa

  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. agave

  1. Mix all ingredients and pour into a mold, such as a plastic container. 
  2. Freeze until ready to eat.

This next one is probably my favorite. It was delicious mixed with crushed pretzels!

Chocolate Bar #2
67% cocoa content

  • 3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. agave

  1. Mix all ingredients and pour into a mold, such as a plastic container. 
  2. Freeze until ready to eat.

This last bar has the highest cocoa content and is the most bitter. It's also the most solid, so it most resembles a store bought bar.

Chocolate Bar #3
70% cocoa

  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. agave

  1. Mix all ingredients and pour into a mold, such as a plastic container. 
  2. Freeze until ready to eat.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Chip Waffles

Waffles make me happy. They remind me of chilly fall weekend mornings growing up, before hitting the tennis court or going to watch my brother's soccer games. My parents could whip up a pretty good breakfast starring waffles made with my mom's ancient waffle maker. Seriously, it's been around probably as long as I have. It's still kicking! Waffles also make me think of sleepovers with friends, when we would quote Donkey from the Shrek series.. "and in the morning, I'm making waffles"! I know you know what I'm talking about.

Anyways, it's a tradition I hope to carry on with Logan. I've been using this recipe that I wrote down from somewhere for awhile now, and it's never failed me. I substitute almond milk in place of traditional milk, and it's still just as good. Last time I made it I even squeezed fresh orange juice to go with it. I must have had energy that morning, not to mention an abundance of oranges!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Waffles
Makes about 5 large waffles

  • 1 cup of unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1/2 cup of apple purée (that's 4 cubes if you use the ice cube tray method) apple sauce would work here, too.
  • Vegan chocolate chips, or a chopped up chocolate bar

Do I need to write instructions on how to make waffles on a waffle maker? Didn't think so. Enjoy your breakfast!
Waffles make him happy, too!

Quinoa Pizza Casserole

I'm getting desperate for quick, easy weekday meals. I absolutely love my job (how could you not with views like these?),

but it's exhausting! Fresh air and being physically active has never killed anyone, but it sure takes a lot out of you. At the end of the day I'm so tired all I want to do is crash, but I REFUSE to be lured by take out and fast food (not every night at least). If anyone has any ideas for simple, healthy, vegan meals, send them my way. In the meantime, here's one for you that I adapted from an online recipe. It can even be made ahead of time and baked before dinner.

Quinoa Pizza Casserole
Serves 4 generously

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. each of oregano, basil and parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

  1. Combine the quinoa and water in a saucepan.
  2. Cook over a medium flame until it begins to boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
  4. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a large casserole dish.
  5. When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the casserole dish, and mix thoroughly with the other ingredients.
  6. Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until thoroughly heated.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Strawberry Almond Soup

It's here! Strawberry season is upon us. The official start to the season doesn't usually begin until Memorial Day weekend, but with all the warm, dry weather we've been having on Long Island, the strawberries are off to an early start. I haven't been to any of the U-Pick farms out east yet, but I have stocked up on the organic strawberries that have been on sale in the grocery stores. Among the few strawberry concoctions I've created so far, this strawberry soup I adapted from this recipe takes the cake. It was so easy, and unbelievably delicious. With the summer heat making it's appearance, I'm sure  I'll be making plenty more "stove free" soups like this.

Logan couldn't get enough of it. I filled his bowl four times, can you tell?

Strawberry Almond Soup
Serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a side

  • 2 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 lbs. (about 5 cups) of strawberries, tops removed
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract

  1. Blend the sunflower seeds in a blender until a paste begins to form.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
  3. Chill in the fridge for about an hour before serving.

No leftovers!

This recipe inspired me to make my own extracts. Extracts can be used to enhance the flavors of baked goods, soups, smoothies, stir fries. You name it. I've already made vanilla extract, so I thought, why not almond, and mint while I'm at it. The pretty containers I salvaged from my mom's collection are overflowing with mint. I need something to do with it! Plus, it would taste really good with the vegan chocolate bars I'm working on perfecting. More on that later!

My containers with lavender, spearmint, and chocolate mint

I won't be able to give you a review of my extracts until they're ready in a few weeks, but if you want to experiment with me, here's how..

Almond Extract
Chopped almonds
  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 2 cups of vodka
  1. Toast the almonds in a 400º oven for 10 minutes. (Toasted almonds are delicious btw, eat them as is, or garnish your strawberry soup with them).
  2. Pulse the almonds in a blender or food processor in short bursts. The goal is to just get them chopped, so don't blend them into a paste.
  3. Add the chopped almonds to a glass jar, along with the vodka.
  4. Keep in a cabinet for 6 weeks, shaking daily. 
  5. Strain the solids with a cheesecloth, and you've made almond extract! (Hopefully)

Mint Extract
  • 1 cup of loosely packed mint
  • 3/4 cup of vodka
  • 1/2 cup of water
  1. Mix everything in a glass jar.
  2. Keep in a cabinet for 3 weeks, shaking daily.
  3. Strain the solids with a cheesecloth, and enjoy your mint extract!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mac and CheeZe

Following my tendency to think on the bright side, I normally look at Logan's allergies to egg and milk products as a blessing. They force us all to eat healthier, and they keep people from feeding him junk. I don't understand the compulsion people feel to feed babies like they're garbage disposals, but his allergies keep those people at bay. That said, home baked macaroni and cheese is still one of my favorite meals. It's quick, easy and oh so satisfying. If it wasn't for Logan's allergies, I'm afraid I would make guilty pleasure meals like that all too often, especially lately since the challenges of being a working mother are making themselves known! I do periodically get the crave for mac and cheese, but making that now means having to make a separate meal for Logan too. Kinda defeats the purpose of a quick and easy dinner.

In a stroke of luck, I came across a recipe promising a cheesy sauce, but without the cheese. Well the recipe wasn't perfect, but I was able to doctor it into a dish that Andrew likes even better than my original recipe that's full of dairy. I have to admit, it's pretty darn good considering it doesn't have cheese. And everyone knows how much I love cheese. It's pretty simple, too. Roasting the butternut squash (yes, the "cheeze" sauce contains butternut) is the only time consuming part, but the extra time spent on this dish is worth the healthier and more nutritious alternatives.

Kale chips
I usually top mac and cheese with breadcrumbs and Italian spices. I checked the label on the breadcrumbs I had in the cabinet and yup, whey. I'm glad I checked. I made kale chips and sprinkled a few crushed ones over the top instead. It was just as good! I rekindled my love of kale recently after having kale chips for the first time at a chickapalooza festival. They're a breeze to make. Just tear the washed leaves into bite sized pieces, toss on a baking sheet with a tablespoon of oil, some garlic and onion powder, and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Mac and Cheeze
Serves about 6

  • 1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled and cubed.
  • 1 Tbsp. of oil
  • 1 lb. of whole wheat pasta
  • 3/4 cup of cashews
  • 1 3/4 cups of almond milk
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • Ground pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  2. Toss the butternut and oil on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 40 minutes, or until soft.
  3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  4. Make the cheeze sauce by combining the rest of the ingredients in a blender and blend until combined.
  5. When the butternut is done roasting, add it to the blender and mix with the rest of the cheeze sauce.
  6. Combine the pasta and the cheeze sauce in a casserole dish, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until warmed.
  7. Serve immediately.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lilac Muffins

Spring has never been more delicious!

Lilacs are my absolute, hands down favorite flower. The smell, the delicate purple color, the tiny blossoms, I love it all. My favorite time of year is when the lilacs bloom in May (or April as it was this year). Andrew knows how much I love them, so he bought me a bush on my first birthday that I celebrated with him, and planted it in my parents yard. I told him I would love him as long as lilacs bloom in spring. I know, I'm so romantic. Well the bush hasn't bloomed since that first year, but I still love him! (Does anyone have any idea why a lilac bush wouldn't bloom btw? It's growing fine, it just doesn't flower). We have a small bush outside of our bedroom window now, and even though I avoid opening that window because of my allergies, I make an exception when the bush is in bloom. I hate how short the blooming season is though. The blooms are on their way out, so get on this recipe right away! I never thought to bake with lilacs. It didn't ever cross my mind that they could be edible until I came across the recipe that I adapted this from. I switched out eggs, milk and butter for healthier, vegan ingredients, and topped the muffins with a thinned out version of my vegan buttercream icing and candied lilac blossoms. If you're looking for something unique, pretty and delicious to make for Mother's Day, look no further. This recipe is perfect.

The lilac blossoms on their own are pretty bitter. I thought the muffins would take on that taste, so I iced them to add some sweetness. It turns out they're not so bitter once they're baked, so the muffins tasted fine on their own. Feel free to skip the icing and candied lilacs, but they do make for a nice presentation. And candying the lilacs makes them "taste exactly like they smell", according to my brother Jesse.

Lilac Muffins
Makes 6 muffins
  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil, melted
  • 1/8 cup of apple puree or sauce (or 1 cube if you freeze the puree in ice cube trays)
  • 1/4 cup of Turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk
  • 1 cup of unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup of lilac blossoms, stems removed
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  2. Hand mix all the ingredients besides the blossoms in a mixing bowl until well blended.
  3. Fold in the lilacs.
  4. Spoon the mixture into 6 greased muffin tins.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes.
  6. When cooled, top with icing and candied blossoms (recipe below).

Vegan "Buttercream" Icing
Ices 6 muffins

  • 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. water (this is the thinned out version, to make the original, use only 1 tsp. of water)
  1. Cream the shortening and 1/2 of the sugar with an electric mixer.
  2. Add the rest of the sugar, vanilla and water and cream until smooth.

Candied Lilac Blossoms
Makes about 1/2 cup of simple syrup.. which will candy a lot of blossoms

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, plus extra for dusting (I tried to use organic for dusting, but the blossoms came out kind of brown and rotten looking, so this might be the only time I say this, but skip the organic version. This also makes it non-vegan, since it's bone char that whitens the sugar). 
  • Lilac blossoms, stems removed
  1. Heat the water and 1/2 cup of sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved to create the simple syrup.
  2. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. Once cool, dip blossoms in the simple syrup using (clean!) tweezers.
  4. Blot off the excess syrup on the handle of the wooden spoon, and dip in sugar.
  5. Place on a sheet of wax paper to harden.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Strawberry Mango Fruit Leather

I know I know, I'm really slacking on the posts. It's not for lack of material. I've been plenty busy in the kitchen, so busy that at the end of the day I crash without giving this blog a second thought. I'm not sure what's more exhausting- being a working mom, or staying home with a toddler all day. You would think it's the former, but the older Logan gets, the more wild he becomes. But on the plus side he gets sweeter and more loving everyday, too!

Everyday I set small, attainable goals for myself. Today's included publishing a post. I'm dead tired, so this'll be quick. My mom bought me a dehydrator for my birthday last month, so I finally gave hers back. Fruit leather is one thing that I've been looking forward to making, so when I found myself with an abundance of fruit after a cinco de mayo fiesta (I didn't make nearly as many batches of sangria and fruit based margaritas as planned, I was too busy fiesta-ing) I got to work. Strawberries and mangos starred in this particular batch, but just about anything goes. Use what you have, get creative, and have fun!

Strawberry Mango Fruit Leather

  • 1 lb. of organic strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 mango, peeled and de-fleshed (that sounds gross, I wish I could think of a better way to say it)

  1. Blend everything together until smooth.
  2. Pour into teflex sheets or onto plastic wrap set atop the dehydrator trays. The mixture should be about 1/8 of an inch thick.
  3. Dehydrate on a low setting for.. a really long time. It usually takes about 10 hours, which feels like forever.
  4. The fruit leather is done when it is no longer wet and sticky.

I prefer to use plastic wrap instead of the teflex. I'm not sure at what temperature plastic wrap starts to break down and invade your food, but it's nearly impossible to get the fruit leather off of the teflex. If plastic wrap is used, you just roll the whole thing up when you're done. No mess, no clean up. I'll take it.

It's way past my bedtime. Night night.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Raw Thin Mints

I was sent a recipe for One Green Planet's thin mint recipe from my friend Bri. After hearing her rave about them I had to try it, even though it called for stevia. I just can't stomach the stuff. I figured it couldn't be so bad since a batch only needed 1/2 a teaspoon, so I borrowed the sweetener from my mom and got to work. Bleh! I could taste the stevia in every bite. I ended up tossing the whole thing. I have no idea why I hate that stuff so much. Maybe it's one of those polarizing foods like cilantro, some people love it, other people say it tastes like soap. I was determined to make these work though, so I tried again using a couple substitutions. Since I used up all my protein powder in the first batch, I used homemade almond flour the second time. You can probably buy it in the store, but here's how I make my own: after I make almond milk in the juicer, I dehydrate the pulp, then grind it into a fine powder using the baby bullet. Since there was no way I was using stevia again, I replaced it with agave. I also added a few crushed leaves from an organic chocolate mint plant I picked up over the weekend. It was perfect for these cookies! While the end result wasn't exactly like the girl scout version, these were still delicious and much healthier. Logan and I couldn't get enough of them, and I can't wait until I have more almond flour so I can make them again!

Raw Thin Mints
Makes about 15
The mixture should be about this consistency when you
roll them on the cookie sheet.

  • 3/4 cup of almond flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. of cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extra
  • 1 tsp. agave
  • 6 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • A few chocolate mint leaves, crushed very fine (optional)

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Let the bowl sit on the counter for a few minutes until the mixture has just started to solidify.
  3. Using a melon baller (a spoon would work too, but I have a thing for the melon baller), scoop out small portions of the batter.
  4. Place the scoops of batter on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and mold them into the desired shape.
  5. Chill the cookie sheet in the fridge for about an hour.
  6. Store covered in the fridge or freezer.

Ready to be chilled